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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

LBJ's secret tapes on Israel

Wednesday's New York Sun has an amazing article on the beginning of the US - Israel strategic relationship, based upon tapes recently released by the President who was and still is responsible for it: Lyndon B. Johnson (pictured with US ambassador to the UN Arthur Goldberg). That relationship also teaches us a lesson that's very relevant in the current Presidential campaign (Hat Tip: NY Nana).
On March 24, 1968, President Johnson telephoned his ambassador to the United Nations, Arthur Goldberg. The previous few weeks had been among the most difficult of Johnson's presidency. In late January, the Tet offensive undermined public support for the Vietnam War. In early March, Johnson barely edged longshot Eugene McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary. Four days later, the senator of New York, Robert Kennedy, announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination.

Johnson told Goldberg that he had grown more sympathetic to Israel's plight as his own political fortunes had declined. "They haven't got many friends in the world," the president said, and "they're in about the same shape I am. And the closer I got — I face adversity, the closer I get to them ... Because I got a bunch of Arabs after me — about a hundred million of 'em, and there's just two million of us. So I can understand them a little bit."

The exchange with Goldberg is included in around 13 hours of recorded conversations from January through April 1968, which the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library released publicly on May 1. In the call, Johnson expressed his understanding of Israel's plight in unusually stark terms, but his remarks typified the support for Israel that characterized his presidency.


Johnson's policies stemmed more from personal concerns — his friendship with leading Zionists (such as Abe Fortas, Abe Feinberg, and Arthur Krim), his belief that America had a moral obligation to bolster Israeli security, and his conception of Israel as a frontier land much like his home state of Texas. His personal concerns led him to intervene when he felt that the State or Defense Departments had insufficiently appreciated Israel's diplomatic or military needs.

In 2008, policy toward Israel has attracted more attention than in any presidential campaign in American history. It's not hard to see why — Jewish voters could decide the outcome not only in Florida, but also in swing states such as Nevada and even Colorado.

Earlier this spring, the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, traveled to Israel, visiting the besieged city of Sderot, whose civilians regularly face Hamas rockets fired from Gaza. The likely Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, has aggressively wooed both Jewish voters and the Jewish press, reaffirming his support for Israeli security.

Beyond Israel, Senators McCain and Obama offer dramatically differing visions of appropriate policy toward the Middle East. In choosing between the two candidates, however, the lesson of Lyndon Johnson should serve as a reminder to voters. Given the unique nature of the U.S.-Israeli partnership, a chief executive's personal attitude toward Israel is at least as important as his broad strategic plans.
Read it all.

I would add one more point: A candidate's attitude towards Israel can be discerned by the company he keeps. The company John McCain keeps is Joe Lieberman. The company Barack Hussein Obama keeps is Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan. 'Nuff said.


At 8:25 AM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

Thanks for the hat tip, Carl.

I was astounded when I read the article. If only we had a President who will be like LBJ...I do not trust any of the current crop,especially the Dems, but have hope for Sen. McCain. When he went to Sderot, I felt he truly understood.

Hussein keeps on making so many errors. He will trip himself up. It seems inevitable that he will be the Dem. candidate, but I feel that McCain will beat him easily.

/Nice friends Hussein he has. Farrakhan...at least he was not born in Boston, but grew up in Roxbury. And His 'ministers'?

At 10:15 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

I've always thought one's friends and associates say a lot about person next to their wife since they are the most profound influence upon their life. LBJ's life long support for Israel has been known for a long time. We can only hope the next President will do all he can to sustain that critical relationship and I don't quite think Obama can do it since he wants to reach out to America's enemies more than to her friends. Its what they say about character. You know who a person is when their private and public selves both match the historical verdict on them.

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